REVIEW: New Super Mario Bros U

To be blunt Mario’s debut on the Wii U could have been much better. We know Mario games are good. The gameplay mechanics are always near faultless and level designs always provide a decent challenge with a nice difficulty curve. 2D Mario games are the old Volvo’s of platformers, solid, reliable but pretty dull.

ns6

WHAT IS NSMBU?

Hopefully the concept of a 2D Mario game needs no explanation! This thing called Bower kidnaps a princess and Mario runs left to right in a bid to save her. This is the 4th game in the ‘New Super Mario Bros’ franchise and the first HD Mario game. Like the Wii version the traditional 1 player experience is now optionally a multiplayer experience too, and the Wii U version allows for a 5th player on the gamepad to ‘assist’ by drawing things on the touchscreen.

Before I starting bitching,

It’s not a bad game and NSMBU does make some key improvements over its 3 processors. The return of the super Mario World-type map was much welcomed as were its fair share of secrets peppered throughout. It is good nice to see Mario in HD at last. You also can’t complain at the New super Luigi DLC, which is exactly what DLC should be. It’s probably the better game at most certainly a fairer price. The challenges coin battle and rush modes are welcomed ideas too and there is some, not much, but some attempt to be visually interesting with new styles and themes.

Here I go,

Still, the lack of visual uniqueness is one of my core complaints, its freshness pretty much starts and ends with 2 van Gogh inspired levels. Mario is becoming bland and generic. He’s supposed to be the king of platformers and he’s more mingin’ than blingin’. It’s the same routine, Green world, Sand world, snow world, with just the smallest of changes to ensure it isn’t a blatant cop-out. Sadly is it still a cop-out: This is basically the 4th game in a series which besides HD and an acorn is doing very little worth mentioning to set itself apart. It’s initially all too similar and later, depressingly forgettable.

ns4

As you can see, it’s not as if it isn’t pretty, it’s just a bit too familiar

Other little gripes….

Even with more imaginative and refreshing visuals there is still a distinct lack of new ideas. Take the boss fights, Nintendo just aren’t trying anymore. There’s little enjoyment to boss fights, they’re either a touch frustrating or stupidly easy…Mario’s boss fights need more of a sense of event and desperately need to try new things. Bringing back old foes is fine, but they need more of a purpose than just doing exactly what they did before. Boss fights come across as an after thought tacked on to the end of levels.

ns3

Great to see them back, they just didn’t serve much of a purpose.

I’m also sick of the pole at the end of every level, once upon a time each Mario game had its own different way to wrap up a level and the pole was always my least favorite. It has now been redeployed in the last 5 Mario games and the upcoming Super Mario 3D world, do something different for Christs sake!

And why are there so few attempts to create new characters, be that bosses or smaller baddies? Any Mario game excluding the NSMB series has contributed far more to the world of Mario than the 4 NSMB games combined.

ns5

Pink Yoshis, a redeeming feature.

Hardly the Sound of Music…

Another pretty big gripe is the music. Mario games were known for their memorable tunes, but the entire New Super Mario Bros series has been one big let down on this front and NSMBU probably makes the least effort so far. The title theme sticks somewhat and isn’t awful, but that is pretty much the only song, and doesn’t feel exactly original, mainly because it isn’t. A Mario game without a solid new memorable tune is no Mario game at all. Nintendo have still got it in them, Mario Galaxy’s stunning soundtracks prove that, it’s just not happening in this arm of the franchise.

ns1

Lovely looking level, but not enough went to this effort.

MULTIPLAYER

Forgetting my own opinions for the moment, A few weeks ago I had the lads around for a games night and NSMBU was played. The reaction of all 8 guys who came round was one of overwhelming boredom. The games multiplayer mode failed to get anyones interest and it was played for all of 15 minutes. So my sample of the 18-30 male demo gives the games multiplayer a big thumbs down.

SO BASICALLY…

As we know 2D platformers are hardly dead, Mario is now faced with higher expectations created not just by fan boy expectations on Nintendo but directly by the competition who are now in every regard doing things better. Rayman and Donkey Kong are just two titles making the “new” SMB franchise look like a dinosaur. Mario can no longer rest on the reputation for the best game mechanics, level designs & controls, because the competition really is working much harder while Nintendo are recycling a solid but simplistic game engine.

ns7

Some levels, like this one, are really fun to play.

But as I’ve said it’s not a bad game. It’s as solid as a rock and plays perfectly well, it’s that hefty price tag, that makes you want to moan. NSMBU is not worth £50, it’s hardly worth £30. It’s all too clear this game was very simple to make and that makes its level of content, which is reasonable, far less impressive. If I had picked it up for £20 I would be talking far more positively.

SCORING.

I am being a little harsh I know, but this is a flagship game that feels more like a smart phone game. NSMBU is what is known as a money-spinner. Made at the cheapest price and sold for the highest, because its Mario and Nintendo know people will buy it without thinking, as did I, and I feel a bit ripped off. It very much feels Mario is taking a step back, at any rate this game is not a step forward and it is literally the only Mario game I have ever criticised, this is one lifelong fan who was not exactly impressed.

ns2

65% A mostly unimpressive game saved only by the things it has recycled from previous games.

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